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WHERE ACCUSED PERSON IS THE ONLY WITNESS TO AN EVENT

Dictum

This court has stated in a legion of cases that where the evidence of an accused person is the only witness of an event, any other evidence given by another person not being an eye witness to that particular event will be hearsay or speculative. I commend the decision of this court in Ahmed v. State (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt. 612) 641 at 675 Belgore, JSC while allowing the appeal stated as follows: “In a situation where only the evidence of the accused person as to the actual stabbing is the only eye-witness account, he is either believed or there is no other evidence to believe.” Also in Bassey v. State (2019) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1103) 160 at page 166, para. F, Abba Aji, JSC while allowing the appeal stated as follows: “the testimony of appellant appears to me very striking and believable since there was no eye witness to the crime except the story of the appellant herein. His evidence seems consistent and correlated.”

Enobong v. The State (2022) – SC/CR/249/2020

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COURT OF LAW CAN CONVICT ON THE EVIDENCE OF ONE WITNESS

Accordingly, in arriving at a conviction in criminal cases, the court is concerned with whether or not there is sufficient credible evidence of probative value and not the number of witnesses called on an issue. See: Commissioner of Police v. Daniel Kwashie (1953) 14 WACA 319. Where a single witness called by the prosecution is neither an accomplice nor a tainted witness, a court of law is entitled to convict mainly on his credible evidence where his testimony did not by law require corroboration. Once the court is satisfied with the cogency, high quality and credibility of the evidence of a witness and accepts it, conviction based on such evidence should not be interfered with unless such evidence by law requires corroboration. So, in the Daniel Kwashie case, the learned magistrate convicted the appellant on the evidence of one witness. On appeal to the High Court, the learned Judge found that although, corroboration was not required by law, a court was generally reluctant to convict on the evidence of a single witness and proceeded to allow the appeal. On further appeal to the West African Court of Appeal, the appellate judge was reversed and his decision was set aside on the ground that there was sufficient evidence before the learned magistrate on which he based his conviction. It was further held that since the learned magistrate believed the witness and there was no imputation that the sole witness was an accomplice or a tainted witness, it was an error to reverse his decision and the conviction was restored.

— Iguh, JSC. Oguonzee v State (1998) – SC.131/97

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PROSECUTION HAS DISCRETION TO CALL ITS IMPORTANT WITNESSES

It is trite law that there is no rule which imposes an obligation on the prosecution to call a host of witnesses; all the prosecution need do is to call enough material witnesses to prove its case, and in so doing it has a discretion in the matter. See: Samuel Adaje v. The State (1979) 6-9 SC 18 at 28. Bako Bahor v. Yaburi NA Police (1970) NMLR 107 at 112; E.O. Okonofua & Anor v. The State (1981) 6-7 SC 1 at 18. See also section 179(1) of the Evidence Act. What is more it is the law that if a witness is not called by the prosecution, the defence is at liberty to do so. —

Onu JSC. Oguonzee v State (1998) – SC.131/97

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PROSECUTION OWES NOT THE COURT A DUTY TO CALL HOST OF WITNESSES

The prosecution does not have the obligation to put forward two versions of one incident. See ONUBOGU v. THE STATE (supra); BOY MUKA v. THE STATE (supra); ALFRED ONYEMENA v. THE STATE (1974) ALL NLR 522. Once the prosecution can prove their allegation beyond reasonable doubt with the witnesses they have screened and selected, they would have discharged the burden of proof cast on them by law. They owe neither the Court nor the accused the duty to call a host of witnesses, or a particular witness.

— E. Eko, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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WHO IS A TAINTED WITNESS?

However, and for whatever it is worth, the law is settled that a tainted witness is a person who is either an accomplice or who on the evidence may be regarded as having some purpose of his/her own to serve – see R vs Enahoro (1964) NMLR 65; Ifejirika vs The State (1999) 3 NWLR (pt. 593) 59; Ogunlana vs The State (1995) 5 NWLR (Pt. 395) 266.

— W.S.N. Onnoghen, JSC. Moses v State [2006] – S.C.308/2002

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NEGATIVES OF PHOTOGRAPH REQUIRES PHOTOGRAPHER TO BE CALLED TO TESTIFY

Photographs taken of the deceased’s corpse are secondary evidence. They become admissible only when the negative is also tendered and their inadmissibility has nothing to do with the maker or photographer. However in this age of digital photography where the negatives are stored electronically, it becomes necessary for the photographer to be called to testify. — K.B. Aka’ahs, JSC. Mati Musa v The State (2019) – SC.902/2014

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PROSECUTION MUST NOT CALL ALL WITNESSES, SUFFICIENT WITNESSES ARE ENOUGH

Secondly, it is a well established principle of law that it is not necessary for a person on whom the onus of proof lies, even in criminal cases, to call every available piece of evidence in order to discharge that burden. It is enough if evidence is tendered sufficient to discharge the onus which the law lays upon the prosecution. See: Francis Odili v. The State (1977) 4SC 1 or (1977) 11 NSCC 154 at 158 and Joshua Alonge v.I.G. of Police (1959) SCNLR 516; (1959) 4 FSC 203 or (1959) 1 NSCC 169. In the Francis Odili case, the appellant was convicted and sentenced to death. Following his arrest, the appellant was identified at an identification parade by one of the two Rev. Sisters they violently robbed with arms. At the trial, he pleaded alibi. The learned counsel contended inter alia that the evidence of identification was unreliable and that the prosecution failed to call two other eye witnesses to the incident. On appeal, this court per Alexander C.J.N. stated as follows:- “Counsel’s last submission was that the 2 night guards should have been called as witnesses as they were present throughout………………..The tribunal, in its judgment, pointed out that the defence had an equal opportunity to call the night guards if they considered that the evidence of the night, guards would be favourable to them. The tribunal found no merit in this submission and we unhesitatingly agree. The prosecution is not required to call very available piece of evidence to prove its case. It is enough if sufficient evidence is called to discharge the onus of proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

— Iguh, JSC. Oguonzee v State (1998) – SC.131/97

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